Amazing Benefits of Yoga: Mental, Emotional, and Physical

Amazing Benefits of Yoga: Mental, Emotional, and Physical
Yoga consists of asanas (body postures or poses) with stretches, breathing exercises, and meditation, all combined into one. Yoga has since been studied extensively to uncover its benefits on mental, emotional, and physical health. Many different types of yoga focus on various aspects of the practice.

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What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient, 3000-year-old practice that became popularized in the Western world thanks to its ability to enhance mind/body connections. Yoga consists of asanas (body postures or poses) with stretches, breathing exercises, and meditation, all combined into one. It’s a holistic approach to movement, with a focus on mindfulness.

With roots in Indian philosophy, yoga began as a spiritual practice. Yoga has since been studied extensively to uncover its benefits on mental, emotional, and physical health. Many different types of yoga focus on various aspects of the practice. Some common practices include:

Hatha yoga: focuses on slow movements and mindfulness of the body.

Ashtanga yoga: focuses on various sequences of asanas that are based on the Sun Salutation sequence.

Iyengar yoga: focuses on specific asanas – holding those poses for long periods to improve endurance.

Vinyasa yoga: a varied practice that generally focuses on flowing from one asanas to the next.

Benefits of Yoga

Research on yoga shows that the combination of movement, mindfulness, and breathing exercises can enhance well-being in many ways. 

Mental Benefits

Let’s start by looking at the mental benefits. When you practice yoga consistently, your brain cells make new connections, causing your brain structure and functions to change. This can result in improved cognitive skills and awareness. 

Yoga is known to improve executive functions, which include learning, reasoning, and decision-making. An improvement in these areas can help you perform better in school, as you may enjoy increased concentration and stronger problem-solving skills. 

Emotional Benefits

Many different types of exercise can improve your mood by decreasing the levels of stress hormones in your body and increasing endorphins, a hormone that makes you feel good. Yoga has this benefit too! Study after study has shown that practicing yoga can help you regulate and improve your overall mood.

Yoga provides even more emotional benefits, thanks to the meditations and breathing exercises that come with it. When you practice mindfulness consistently, you can develop greater control over your emotional responses; the tendency to react emotionally, in the moment, may begin to subside. This then allows you to assess a stressful or upsetting situation before you react to it. 

Yoga also has been proven to reduce anxiety and provide relief to many people who suffer from anger issues as well as depression

Physical Benefits

Yoga involves a lot of stretching. The more you practice, the more you can expect to see increased flexibility, along with increased strength and balance. Practicing yoga can also be an excellent way to lose weight and develop a stronger and leaner body. Of course, this depends on which practice you choose. Some yoga practices can be very physically taxing and intense, while others are more gentle.

You also may notice an improvement in your posture, as many yoga poses focus on straightening and stretching the back. Along the same lines, yoga has been known to improve back pain, especially in the lower back.

Tips to Start Yoga

Tips to Start Yoga

Yoga is an excellent practice to add to your routine, but you should always consult your physician before you start any new workout regimen. Also, while yoga provides many benefits for your well-being, keep in mind it doesn’t replace all the benefits that accompany mental health counseling. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, anxiety, or depression, make sure to reach out to a mental health professional for help.

If you choose to start yoga, finding instructions and guidance can be easy! You may consider searching for free yoga videos on YouTube, downloading a yoga app on your phone, researching if yoga classes are offered on your campus, or seeking out yoga studios in your area.

Start Small: If you’re new to yoga, make sure to start with beginner-level classes. Advanced classes require a great deal of strength and balance to maintain poses, so it’s important to start at the beginner level to prevent injury.

Listen to Your Body: Yoga is all about joining mindfulness with movement, but make sure you don’t push your body past its limits. If a pose feels too uncomfortable, stop and take a break, or try a different pose that feels more comfortable for you. The good news is that many yoga classes focus on gentle poses so that you don’t strain your muscles.

Set a Routine for Yourself: To reap the rewards of yoga, you need to practice it consistently. Find what works best for you and your schedule, whether it’s 10 minutes every day or an hour once a week, and make it a routine!

Scholarly Sources

Afonso, R.F., Hachul, H., Kozasa, E.H., Oliveira, D., Goto, V., Rodrigues, D., Tufik, S., & Leite, J.R. (2012). Yoga decreases insomnia in postmenopausal women: A randomized clinical trial. Menopause, 19(2), 186-193. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22048261/

Felver, J.C., Butzer, B., Olson, K.J., Smith, I.M., & Khalsa, S.S. (2015). Yoga in public school Improves adolescent mood and affect. Contemporary School Psychology, 19, 184-192. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40688-014-0031-9

Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, June 12) Staying healthy: Yoga for better mental health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/yoga-for-better-mental-health

John Hopkins Medicine. (n.d). 9 benefits of yoga. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/9-benefits-of-yoga

Lavey, R., Sherman, T., Mueser, K. T., Osborne, D. D., Currier, M., & Wolfe, R. (2005). The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal, 28(4), 399–402. https://doi.org/10.2975/28.2005.399.402

Lessons.com. (n.d). Types of yoga: The 13 different yoga styles. https://lessons.com/yoga-classes/yoga-101/types-of-yoga

Y., N. (2018). Discovering the benefits of yoga and improve the quality of life. International Journal of Physiology, Nutrition and Physical Education, 3(2), 822-823. https://www.journalofsports.com/pdf/2018/vol3issue2/PartR/3-2-167-719.pdf

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